About Spectrum Connect
Our Mission Statement
We are dedicated to providing opportunities for Autistic kids to build social networks and try new experiences in a safe environment. By creating a space that is supportive of the needs of Autistic kids, we take some of the stress out of negotiating social situations. With some of those stresses reduced, the kids are freed to have fun in the space and learn their own tools for navigating relationships.
Importantly, we are NOT here to "teach" social skills, to encourage kids to mask their impulses or to pretend to be something they aren't. We feel strongly that script repetition or training to act like their neurotypical peers is, at best limiting, and at worst a cause of future trauma. These groups are specifically intended for the kids to develop their own skills, manners and coping mechanisms.
Who are we?
Spectrum Connect Australia is owned and operated by Kathryn and Mathew Grey. They are children's entertainers who have been working with children in numerous locations and situations since 2007. Over the years they have hosted events for groups such as Ronald McDonald House, Camp Quality, Cystic Fibrosis Camp NSW, Starlight Foundation, Aspect, Adelaide Fringe Festival, MS Foundation, Adelaide Festival Centre and many more.
The idea for Spectrum Connect came from feedback from parents after a school holiday program they ran in 2019. Purely by chance the 3 day event had a high number of Autistic children enroll. It turned out to be very popular and many children chose to re-enroll to come on multiple days. One mother told us they had never seen there son engaging with other kids so easily and for such a long time. So we conducted research and started to look at ways to recreate what worked and improve on it.
How do meetings work?
Meetings take place for 1.5hrs one afternoon a week after school. Sites are chosen to have appropriate lighting, low noise, easy parking, large spaces and away from major roads. The meeting space is divided into 4 areas.
The main space is where the weekly focal entertainment takes place. Weekly focal entertainments take place for 1 hour, starting 15min after group start time and finishing up 15min before the end of group meeting time. The purpose of the primary entertainment is to give the kids shared experiences and shared goals to work towards. Group members are encouraged to participate in the focal event but can choose to be involved as much or as little as they want. If they need a break or aren't interested in the focal entertainment there are 3 other areas they can use.
There is a Burn Off zone, for jumping, bouncing and shaking out excess energy. There is a Chill Out Zone for quiet times and sensory avoidance. Finally, there is the Game Space for shared play and other activities like board games and crafts. These spaces are free for the kids to move around and use the equipment provided as they like.
Group meetings are facilitated by a team of supportive staff members. There is one staff member to every 4 participating group members.
Spectrum Connect Youth Group meeting rules
1) No one will be forced to participate in any activities they don't want to be involved with.
2) All members are welcome to use any part of the meeting space and no one should exclude other members from accessing an area they wish to use. (Quiet tents are the only exception to this rule.)
3) If some one is in a Quiet tent you must leave them alone. You can only enter if they invite you.
4) Each week there is a focus entertainment. You do not have to participate if you don't want to but we do ask you to listen to the introduction before making up your mind.
5) Listen to your body. If you need a break, please take one. If you are feeling frustrated please let the staff know. If you can't use words, please use one of our emotion signs. Otherwise, please step away and use any regulation items you may want to use.
6) Wear your name tag. Some people have difficulty remembering names and name tags may help them feel more at ease.
7) Respect the personal space of others.
Some pictures from our trial program which was run in November of 2020 or from our school holiday program run in 2019.
No pictures are shared of any children without having express permission.